Sunday, 24 February 2013

How Lying & Keeping Secrets Affects our Health

“The most common lie is that which one lies to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception” – Friedrich Nietzsche.

There are many reasons why a person might start to tell lies. It may be that they have something to gain from it, or that they are protecting someone who might be hurt by the truth- or, that they are ashamed or feel guilty about something.  They may not want to worry those around them if the truth turns out to be negative, such as finding out the results of hospital tests for example.  Alternatively, it could be a white lie, such as “I am too tired to go out tonight" to avoid conflict or please others.
According to Harvard psychologist William Pollack, Ph.D, telling lies and keeping secrets can actually be bad for your health. Of course, we all know that certain lies need to be told and certain secrets must be kept. We just have to make sure we know when to lie or when to tell the truth.
When to do which

Tell the truth if:
·      Someone asks you outright – if you lie to someone directly, chances are that if they find out you will have damaged the trust within that relationship. Your friend, relative or partner will always remember it and never be sure whether you’re telling the truth or not in the future.
·      It’s making you tense and anxious – If you’re keeping a secret or have begun to tell lies and it’s making you nervous, tense and wound up, it’s better to come clean and put yourself (and everyone around you) out of their misery.
·      The situation isn’t too bad yet – If you can see things getting worse it’s good to come clean, especially if you think there might be ways to solve the problem or solutions that can be thought of behind the reason you lied/kept a secret.
Keep the secret or continue lying if:
·      It’s not your secret – Telling someone else’s secret might lead to gossip as well as breaking that person’s trust. Also, that person might have decided they want to sort it out themselves, and so you will shame them by getting there first. If it’s not your business it’s better not to trouble with it and support their decision in whether or not to tell.
·      You intend to tell it within days – Sometimes “Now just isn’t the right time”, and that’s okay. These things are better dealt with if everyone is in a good mood and ready to talk deeply about an issue.
So How do Lies and Secrets Affect my Health?
1.    Telling lies or keeping secrets is prone to making you anxious and on edge. Having something on your mind all the time isn’t good for you, especially if it’s linked to danger, e.g. someone finding out and exposing you, or the worry of others getting hurt etc. This makes us begin a “fight or flight” response, in which adrenaline is constantly in our bodies, which can be damaging long term and cause illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
2.    Telling lies or keeping secrets distract you from your daily routine – you are more likely to make mistakes, forget things, and make physical activities seem more difficult.
3.    Sometimes the secret itself is something you should be talking about. Having a “Big secret” can be very taxing if you have no one you feel you can tell, and therefore are not getting the appropriate support from family and friends. If you need someone to talk to but feel you have nowhere to turn, you might be better off talking to a therapist, calling a helpline such as the Samaritans 08457 90 90 90,  or asking for help on an internet forum.

Try and do what’s best for yourself and the people you love. This might involve making a difficult choice or coming clean about something.  Whether you choose to lie or tell the truth, keep the secret or reveal it, think about whether or not it is justified, and if the good consequences outweigh the bad.

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